“Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers” by Budd Titlow

Yellow bellied sapsuckers woodpeckers exchanging a meal of ants insects food in a hole in the tree

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker – Trading Places by Budd Titlow

Hiking into an aspen grove near Cottonwood Pass high in the Colorado Rockies, I sat down on a stump and just watched as an adult sapsucker flitted around from tree to tree. After about 30 minutes, the bird got used to my presence and flew to the edge of his nesting cavity, which was located 10 feet up the trunk of a mature aspen tree. Since I now knew where the nesting cavity was located, I started moving in that direction – creeping ever so slowly so as not to frighten the adult sapsuckers away from their nest tree. Working my way in tighter and tighter – after each 10 feet or so – I dropped down on my belly, braced my camera with attached 400mm telephoto lens on a convenient log, and fired off about 10 shots. My idea was to make sure I ended up with at least some photos in case the birds decided to stop their feeding activity. After essentially crawling along for about five such stops, I finally worked my way in close enough to get full-frame photos of the birds going in and out of their nest cavity – “trading places” with each other – their beaks full of insects to feed their nesting chicks. My slow movements and prone position – using my elbows and deadfall timber in lieu of a tripod to support my camera and long 400mm telephoto lens – were the keys to letting me get the final photo pictured here. – Budd Titlow

This image is included in Titlow’s new book, “Bird Brains: Inside the Strange Minds of Our Fine Feathered Friends”, which is available for purchase at Amazon here. Find Titlow’s portfolio at AGPix.com.